F-1 Academic Students enter the United States to pursue a full course of
study at one of the following types of DHS-approved academic institutions
in the United States:
- Established college or university
- Academic high school (or, for F-3 students, elementary school)
- Language Training Program
Attendance at a public elementary school, a publicly funded adult education
program is prohibited. Study at a public secondary school is time-limited
and requires reimbursement to the local educational agency.
M-1 Vocational Students enter the United States to pursue a full course
of study at one of the following types of DHS-approved nonacademic institutions
(other than language training programs) in the United States:
- Community college or junior college which provides vocational or technical
training and which awards recognized associate degrees;
- Vocational or other nonacademic high school;
- Post-secondary vocational or business school;
- School that provides vocational or nonacademic training other than language training;
- School that offers both vocational and academic courses, as long as the
student’s primary intent is to study vocational courses.
Language training qualifies only when taken at the same school for the
purpose of enabling the student to understand the vocational or technical
course of study.
J-1 Exchange Visitors are foreign nationals who have been selected by a
Department of State (DOS) designated program sponsor to participate in
an exchange visitor program in the United States. This program is designed
to promote mutual understanding between the United States and other countries
through the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills.
ADVANCE PREPERATION PRIOR TO ENTRY
Careful planning and preparation by students and exchange visitors can
ensure that the delay based established procedure is minimal. If you are
a non-immigrant student or exchange visitor, here are some things you
- Before leaving your country, confirm that your passport and nonimmigrant
visa are still valid for entry into the United States. The passport should
be valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay.
- Check to see that your visa accurately reflects your correct visa classification.
- If the visa states the name of the institution you will attend or identifies
the exchange program in which you are participating, verify that this
information is accurate as well. If your review indicates any discrepancies
or potential problems, visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to obtain a new visa.
- Students and exchange visitors entering the United States for the first
time under their respective nonimmigrant visa classification may only
be admitted up to 30-days prior to the program start date.
- When you receive your U.S. nonimmigrant visa at the Embassy or Consulate
in your country, the consular officer will seal your immigration documents
in an envelope and attach it to your passport. You should not open this
envelope! The Customs and Border Protection Officer at the U.S. port–of-entry
will open the envelope.
- When you travel, you should carry some specific documents on your person.
Do not check them in your baggage! If your baggage is lost or delayed,
you will not be able to show the documents to the Customs and Border Protection
Officer and, as a result, may not be able to enter the United States.
Documents you should carry on your person:
Passport (including attached envelope of immigration documents) with nonimmigrant visa;
SEVIS Form I-20AB, I-20MN, or DS-2019;
Visa exempt nationals presenting a SEVIS Form I-20AB, I-20MN or DS-2019
issued on or after September 1, 2004, who are entering the United States
for the first time should have a Form I-797, Receipt Notice or Internet
Receipt verifying SEVIS Fee payment. For additional SEVP/SEVIS Program
Information, refer to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website at
- Evidence of financial resources,In addition, it is recommended that you
also carry the following documents:
- Evidence of Student/Exchange Visitor status (recent tuition receipts, transcripts);
- Name and contact information for Designated School Official (DSO) or Responsible
Officer (RO) at your intended school or program;
- Writing instrument (pen).
If you are traveling by aircraft, the flight attendants on board will distribute
CF-6059 Customs Declaration Forms and Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record
for immigration, before you land at your initial point-of-entry in the
U.S. Complete these forms while you are on the aircraft and submit them
to the appropriate Customs and Border Protection Officer upon your arrival.
If you do not understand a form, ask the flight attendant for assistance.
Upon arrival at the port-of- entry, proceed to the terminal area for arriving
passengers for inspection. As you approach the inspection station, ensure
that you have: passport, SEVIS Form I-20 or DS-2019; completed Form I-94
Arrival-Departure Record; and, CF-6059 Customs Declaration Form available
for presentation to the CBP Officer. The Form I-94 should reflect the
address where you will reside (not the address of the school or program sponsor).
If you are entering through a land or designated seaport, the Customs and
Border Protection Officer will provide the necessary CF-6059, Customs
Declaration Form and Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record at the port-of-entry.
If you do not understand a form, ask the CBP Officer for assistance.
Like all entering visitors, you will be asked to state the reason you wish
to enter the United States. You will also be asked to provide information
about your final destination. It is important that you tell the CBP Officer
that you will be a student or exchange visitor. Be prepared to include
the name and address of the school or exchange visitor program where you
If you are authorized optional practical training, this should be reflected
on page 3 of your SEVIS Form.
Once your inspection is complete, the inspecting officer will:
- Stamp your SEVIS Form for duration of status (“D/S”) for F
and J visa holders;
- Stamp your SEVIS Form for 30-days beyond program end date for M visa holders,
not to exceed one-year;
- Stamp the Form I-94 and staple it in the passport;
- Return the SEVIS Form.
SECONDARY INSPECTION REQUIREMENTS
If the inspector cannot automatically verify your information or you do
not have all of the required documentation, you may be escorted to an
interview area know as “secondary inspection.” Secondary inspection
allows inspectors to conduct additional research in order to verify information.
Verifications are done apart from the primary inspection lines so that
an individual case will not cause delays for other arriving passengers.
It is recommended that you have readily available the name and phone number
of the foreign student advisor at your school or the person responsible
for your J-1 Exchange Visitor Program in case your admission/participation
needs to be verified. In the event you arrive during non-business hours
(evenings, weekends, holidays), you should have a phone number where this
individual can be reached during non-business hours.
Failure to provide proper documentation and to comply with entry/exit procedures
is cause to refuse the student or exchange visitor admission into the
United States. In limited circumstances, if a student or exchange visitor
is mostly, but not fully in compliance, he/she may be issued a Form I-515A,
Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor. This form authorizes temporary
admission for 30 days into the United States and requires the student
or exchange visitor to take immediate action to submit proper documentation.
Noncompliance with the directions contained on these forms can result
in future adverse action.
Continuing students who are going to travel outside of the United States
must see their foreign student advisor and obtain an endorsement from
the DSO or RO. The endorsement will be made on page 3 of the SEVIS Form
I-20 or page 1 of the DS-2019. When returning to the United States, a
continuing student/exchange visitor must present a valid SEVIS Form I-20
or DS-2019 with the DSO or RO signature showing that the student is active
and in good standing with the school or program.